Point/Counter-Point: Gnomes

Point/Counterpoint – installment the third:

Why I Love Gnomes

Gnomes have a lot of interesting things going for them. They have a lot of similarities to Elves and Dwarves, but without as much potential for Munchkin abuse. It seems like people play gnomes because they want to play gnomes, not because they want access to the mechanical advantages that being a gnome gives them. Gnomes are playful like faeries, industrious like dwarves, and not as clichéd as either of those things. Gnomes are diverse, with several sub-species that exemplify different facets of gnomishness, and their pantheon reflects this diversity. Gnomes have an innocence about them that, coupled with a lust for gems, makes for an interesting roleplaying dynamic. Gnomes have the potential to shine as any character class, and are equally at home in a dungeon or city setting. I love gnomes because they aren’t overplayed by the same people who overplay a lot of the other races; people who overplay gnomes overplay them for different, slightly more tolerable reasons. It’s true that gnomes, like any race, can be plagued by clichés, but the nature of gnomes tends to make even these cliches play out in a more interesting manner than the clichés of other races. You should play a gnomish character if you think that playing a gnome sounds like a good idea for no other reason than the fact that playing a gnome sounds like a good idea.

Why I Hate Gnomes

Does every gnome have to be an illusionist/thief? I hate that a race with so much interesting stuff going for it gets marginalized at the game table. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone play a gnomish priest, and the only gnomish fighter I can remember was one that I played. I mean, I get why there are a lot of gnome illusionist thieves out there, that’s to be expected, but do yourself a favor and break the mold once in a while. And if you’re going to be a thief, have some more ambitious goals than stealing gems from your adventuring companions. Or, if your group is all about players backstabbing each other, at least be creative about it. If the best thing you can come up with is making a pick pocket roll against whoever is in front of you in the marching order, just tear up your gnome illusionist/thief right now. And if you’re going to play a prank, it better amuse everyone at the table (or me, the Dungeon Master, at the very least). If you’re the only one having fun doing whatever it is you’re doing, and it’s keeping everyone at the table from getting on with the game and having fun, then stop it. I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re going to play a thieving trickster gnome, put some effort into making that character interesting and clever. If you’re the only one laughing at your character’s antics then you’re doing it wrong. Also, here is a new rule: if you’ve already played a gnome illusionist/thief before, you are not allowed to play another gnome illusionist/thief until you play a gnome that isn’t an illusionist or a thief.


Please don’t take this as me saying “I know how to play such-and-such and other people don’t.” I’m just thinking back on my years of gaming and ranting about some recurring themes I’ve witnessed over the years. I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t guilty, especially in my formative role-playing years, of doing everything I just bitched about.


Point/Counter-Point: Dwarves

Point/Counter-Point: Elves

5 thoughts on “Point/Counter-Point: Gnomes

  1. I admit, these days I don’t get gnomes. I’m just not sure what they offer that dwarfs don’t. Though I do remember a pretty cool take on both races on Grognardia, how dwarfs don’t have children, they sculpt them. Occasionally one comes out with an affinity for magic, and that’s a gnome. Most unique take on the races that I’ve ever read.

    1. I like the originality there, but I don’t know if I like tying gnomish origins so closely to dwarves. In a campaign world I have, I made gnomes like gypsies, with caravans and all, roaming the world in search of a homeland they had lost ages ago. Their origins were shrouded in a lot of myth and legend, but at least they had a pretty solid identity of their own just based on their more recent history.

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